...and the Retailer, and "free gift" type.
I've chosen to finally read "The Paradox of Choice: Why Less is More" by Barry Schwartz. It's a VERY interesting look into how life has changed with all of the choices we make day in and day out.
How do these choices affect us? Are we happier having so many choices on even the minutiae of our lives? I've had the book on my "To Read" stack for a couple of years now, but the other day I got stuck behind a couple of older women at Subway trying to negotiate getting something to eat and it moved to the top.
Normally, I'd have been annoyed with these two, but I wasn't. The choices they were being asked to make were absurd. I grabbed a menu and did some math while I consumed my 6-inch, Veggie Delight, on whole wheat with lettuce, tomato, plenty of jalapenos, mayo, oil and vinegar and salt and pepper. Looking only at the sandwich choices, there are over TWO BILLION combinations on the menu -- and that's before they ask you if you'd "like it toasted".
At this point, I wanted to know how "painful" it was to find and order eyeglasses. This is one of the areas that the online stores are generally better than their brick and mortar counterparts. Both have a dizzying array of choices, but at least at online, I can browse while I watch an episode of "Arrested Development" or "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" on hulu.
And this relates to glasses how exactly?
I wanted to lay out a scale of the retailers based on who caters the best to your individual personality and patience the best.
My methodology to come up with an "apples to apples" comparison:
- I decided to focus on single-vision metal and plastic frames.
- No rimless (as some provide an infinite array of lens shape choices)
- No clip-on frames.
- Ignored color choices as that's more subjective than fit.
- Originally, I had lenses included, but I wanted a compact study aimed at simple first-time buying choices.
Here are some of my findings:
The most obvious thing I found is that it's VERY difficult to comb through the Zenni and Goggles4U sites. Goggles4U is a special case because of their crazy inventory model -- pretty much everything is a close-out (only 1 left).
For Zenni, it's because they're breaking almost every rule of information architecture. They do pretty well (they're the 900-lb Gorilla) -- perhaps it's the way they throttle their business. Getting too busy? Make it more frustrating. But seriously, the navigation combining pricing with far too many categories of frames makes my head hurt.
Where do I find Harry Caray glasses? "$8.00 Eyeglasses", "$9.95 Eyeglasses", "$12.95 Eyeglasses", "$15.95 Eyeglasses", "$19 Plastic or Acetate", "Acetate or Mixed Material", "Full Rim Frames", "Variable Dimension Frames",
39DollarGlasses has 48 options that fit the above criteria for single vision customers looking for basic lenses.
EyeBuyDirect has about 80 frame options for single vision wearers.
Goggles4U has (at noon on 8/3/2008) 1754 options for single vision people, although this number fluctuates wildly with the way they handle inventory -- and includes many different colors of individual designs. There is no good method of parsing this.
Optical4Less has quite a few frames -- 110 single-vision options (with more color choices in that than anyone besides Zenni).
Compare this to the nearest physical optical store to my home, with approximately 300 frames and you'll see that the online stores fall on both sides of this -- although the cheapest frame I was able to find was $119 without lenses.
I'd argue that more choices leads to two things; more time and frustration, and more room for making a mistake. I'm not suggesting that no choice is a good thing. Visions of a Soviet optician revealing my choice -- "You want brown or black?" -- make me happy that there are options. I think you'll agree that even the choice of retailers provides something that fits how each of us approach choice.
- At August 1, 2008 at 12:27 AM Paul said...
Zenni's site was somewhat difficult to start with, but once I got get a feel for the inventory, I realized that I could mentally lump a lot of their choices together into easier to manage units. For instance, they have about a half-dozen round glasses that differ in diameter and material. For any one frame there are then further choices in color, but they're all very similar in shape.
They have a huge number of frames with lenses that are fairly wide and not very tall, but so does almost everybody else. And that's almost all that a lot of sites offer, making them not too useful to me.
I don't think it would take that much more work on their part to make a much easier way to navigate through their catalog, perhaps by just adding a few more well-selected categories to their list on the left half of the screen.
Goggles4U can drive you crazy with their huge lists, and because it's a lot of work (and sometimes impossible) to tell if two similar frames with different colors are otherwise identical.
Their sorting/filtering function does only about half as much as it should. For instance, it allows you to specify a minimum lens width, total width, etc., but not a maximum.
- At August 1, 2008 at 9:23 AM Ira said...
"I don't think it would take that much more work on their part to make a much easier way to navigate through their catalog, perhaps by just adding a few more well-selected categories to their list on the left half of the screen."
I think you missed my point. More categories? Oh no! People fight through this mess because they are saving a few more dollars.
- At August 1, 2008 at 12:59 PM Paul said...
I meant that if Zenni added some categories that I'd find more useful, I could use them and ignore more of the categories that they use now.
Ideally, they'd re-do their whole search scheme with fewer and more sensible categories, but this isn't likely in the near term. (But then, it's not that unusual to find websites completely reconstructed just when we've figured out how to navigate the old one.)
Ira, why don't you show how you'd like to search?
For me, it would be mostly lens shape/size, total width, and materials. I don't think any online vendor does a good job helping me filter these.
- At August 1, 2008 at 1:36 PM Ira said...
You couldn't be more correct. I think Goggles4U has the best "search", but that "best" is still pretty dreadful.
It hits on two of your three criteria, but without a way to filter or sort it's pretty useless.
The sites with smaller, more manageable collections need to improve some of the information on their browsing pages.
I'll start thinking of a post to address these issues more in depth.
Thanks for your input! I appreciate it.
- At August 2, 2008 at 7:10 AM Brianala said...
I think it's interesting that you find Zenni's site the most difficult to navigate in a post that talks about simplicity of choice.
Personally, I feel that Zenni's site is the easiest *because* of it's simplicity. My highest motivator purchase decisions is price (and I imagine that's the same for most of their target market), and they put it right out there. I know how much I want to spend, so I can go right to the category and find something I like there. If not, I decide whether I want to spend a little more.
I also like that Zenni keeps the color choices for the frame as an option once you view the frame itself, instead of listing each frame color separately.
- At August 2, 2008 at 9:02 AM Ira said...
I'm glad you find it easy to use and have found value -- many have. With price being most important, especially with simple prescriptions, you're never going to need to get down past the top couple of menu options.
For those who are looking beyond price, my illustration is indeed pertinent.
As for listing frame colors as separate primary choices, I agree completely. It IS the way they do it in the brick and mortar stores, but for online I think Goggles4U and EyeBuyDirect have this all wrong -- though I understand to a certain degree why both of them do it the way they do.
I'm a sorter and categorizer and the mix & match categories (price, material, style(?), gender, age, others...) is insane. I mean Zenni has 23 choices before you even see a frame!
Again, if you're solely concerned with price, that $8 category is right up top -- perfect for that buyer.
I think O4L and 39$ have the two most useful lists of categories -- especially with the added simplicity of having only one or two price-points for their entire collections.
This is the kind of thing that makes it difficult for retailers -- and one of the reasons I write posts like these. They spur fruitful discussion that may have positive impact on the sites (and site updates) of tomorrow.
- At August 3, 2008 at 2:55 PM Paul said...
I forgot to mention gender as a search criterion I'd want. Then I can skip a bunch of obviously female glasses and the ones I thought were unisex but only available in colors like pink.
- At August 3, 2008 at 6:05 PM Anonymous said...
If I use the search function Zenni is very easy for me. I zero in on one of the frame dimensions that I absolutely have to have, like temple arm length longer than 140mm. If I enter 141mm, then 142mm, then 143mm, I can find frames that have temple arms that will work for me.
Then I look at the bridge dimension of these long temple arm frames. I need to have a 17mm to 20mm bridge size. If a frame meets these criteria and I like the style I bookmark it. After about 15-20 minutes of searching this way I'll have a half dozen choices to peruse. Now I'll consider color, weight of frame, etc. Using this process of elimination I've found a fast, efficient way to search Zenni's site. I suppose this method would work at other sites as well.
--posted by powrwrap